Succulents can adapt and grow well under adverse conditions however they are extremely sensitive to overwatering. As they are mostly from drought-prone areas, succulents can put up with underwatering to some degree but not with overwatering. They are not habituated with the abundance availability of water in their natural habitats. So,
What does an overwatered plant look like? ( Signs & symptoms)
- The overall look of the plant is wet and wilting
- Bottom leaves are starting to fall off just by touching
- Leaf edges are turning brown or yellow
- Leaves are feeling like mushy and swollen
- The plant is having a lot of fungal issues recently and attracting many bugs or other pests
- Leaves are dropping off after changing color
- Root rot
Let’s take a deeper look into each of these signs and symptoms:
The overall look of the plant is wet and wilting
In general wilting can happen due to underwatering as well as overwatering. However, if the potting soil feels wet along with the whole plant to touch then the reason is overwatering hands down.
If along with these you see discoloration of the leaves, development of brown or black spots on the plant, then maybe the roots are not in a good condition. In such situations, it is always a good idea to check the root health and look for signs of root rot.
Bottom leaves are starting to fall off just by touching
If the reason is root rot, the effects of rot will spread slowly to the stem base and then to the bottom leaves before spreading to other parts of the succulents. Overwatered leaves are soft, wet, and mushy. They fall off pretty easily.
- Even if the root rot has not occurred yet, the primary signs of overwatering can be predominantly seen in the bottom leaves first.
Bottom leaves can fall off due to touch because of many reasons other than overwatering however in those cases, the leaves won’t feel swollen and mushy.
Also, make sure you are not using extremely chilly water for watering the plant. Roots are sensitive to cold water as that can cause stress, so only use lukewarm water if the room temperature is pretty low. Extreme humidity or lack of fertilization can cause bottom leaves to drop as well.
Leaf edges are turning brown or yellow
The color change of the leaves can occur due to a variety of reasons from sunburn to nutrition issues however the most common reason is overwatering. Older matured leaves can turn yellow or brown and fall off which is completely normal. However, if you find the newly growing leaves facing this issue, you have a serious problem at hand.
- Take a sharp look at your watering schedule. Yellowing of the leaves can occur owing to overwatering or underwatering. If the leaves feel dry and crispy then the issue is underwatering. If it feels soggy and wet then it’s overwatering.
Adjust the location of the plant as well. Make sure the plant is not receiving too much sun. Most succulents love the indirect filtered sun for 3-5 hours a day. Sunburn can also give rise to brown spots. Succulents do well when kept indoors especially in the eastern and southern facing rooms as these places get sufficient sunlight.
Leaves are feeling mushy and swollen
This is a very common symptom of overwatering. Too much love is injurious for the succulent”s health. Leaves can fall off for a variety of reasons and even sometimes naturally.
But if the fallen leaves feel soft, moist, and mushy to touch then something is seriously wrong. When leaves become swollen and swampy they are very much susceptible to touch and fall off easily.
If the plant is having a lot of fungal issues recently and attracting many bugs or other pests
Bugs, fungal gnats, flies, and other pests need wet conditions to thrive and to lay eggs. This problem is more often seen in indoor plants owing to the absence of rightful air circulation and proper exposure to the sun. In such conditions, you need to be wary of your watering practice. Succulents in general are sensitive to overwatering as root rot can occur pretty easily if the soil remains wet for a long time.
If your succulent has been attracting a lot of pests lately it can be a sign that the potting soil is remaining damp for days. So always make sure you are only watering your succulent when the soil is dry. Letting the soil get dry in between watering helps in killing off larval gnats and eggs. It also decreases the chances of fungal and bacterial infection.
- Avoid watering the leaves as fungal infection can commonly occur on moist leaf and branch surfaces. Most of the water absorption occurs only via the roots so target the stem base and soil while watering.
Leaves are dropping off after changing color
Succulents drop leaves alarmingly when stressed. Again if the dropped leaves look old and matured then it is a completely natural process. Otherwise, it is a matter of concern.
- Usually, plant drops off leaves owing to some kind of stress. So if you have suddenly changed the location, brought then indoors from outdoors, it can happen. Other reasons include sudden fluctuations in temperature, i.e. exposure to cold temperature. Most succulents dont do well below 10 degrees Celcius.
Apart from these another common reason is overwatering which can result in changing the leaf color and make them swollen and mushy. As a result, they will fall off pretty easily.
Also, make sure that the succulent is getting enough sunlight and water. They can drop off leaves when they face a shortage of nutrients and resources. Fertilize the plant once a year just before growing season and water them only when the soil is dry and never hold back, completely drench the potting soil in the water when watering.
Edema is the phenomenon where the plants abnormally retain more water than they normally should. Whenever plants have greater availability of water, more than they need, this condition arises.
Succulents are plants with highly superior water reserves and they have modified their plant parts to suit the conditions of drought. So water loss is quite minute when compared with other plants. Also, they use water very efficiently. So if you provide them with more water, they will end up taking more water than they need and it will lead to edema.
- Common symptoms of edema for plants include blisters, mushy wet areas on the plant body, discoloration of leaves is common along with curling.
How do you treat plant edema?
However, as edema is not just a disease cutting back on the watering can sort this problem out. Make sure to fertilize your succulents at least once a year. Plants having a deficiency in potassium and calcium are much more susceptible to edema (source).
Sufficient light exposure along with well-fertilized drainage friendly soil and having a proper watering practice is the only possible treatment for edema.
Root rot is the most severe symptom and the end result of overwatering. Excess dampness in the soil favors fungal growth that further leads to root rot. Root rot can spread within 2 weeks to the whole plant and it really becomes tough to save the plant under those circumstances.
If you find your succulents showing symptoms of overwatering it is always a good idea to check for signs of root rot. If you take action early on you can still save your succulent. Carefully pluck the succulent out of the soil, remove the excess soil off the root, and observe the roots. See if they look firm and white or black, brown, mushy, and soft.
If its the former then just pluck it back and here on only water the plant when the soil feels truly dry. If its the latter then you need to do some surgery and remove the rotten portions. After that, you have to repot the plant into a new pot with new soil mixture and hope for the best.
Can plants recover from overwatering?
Absolutely. However the kind of damage the plant has sustained plays a big role.
Overwatering leads to root rot and as long as it has not spread to the stem and leaves the plant has got a steady chance of recovery. If you doubt your plant is overwatered and still have not shown any prominent symptoms then don’t water for a week or so and closely monitor the plant.
See if it looks healthier than before or not. In case it is still showing no signs of improvement then consider repotting the plant inspecting the root condition.
How to save your Overwatered plant? How do you fix an overwatered plant?
Stop watering it for now
Most plants are much more susceptible to overwatering than under-watering. You need to take a look at your watering schedule and revaluate it, later on. Right now you just need to stop watering it for some time and give it some time to recover. Keep it beside the window or in the balcony where it will get enough indirect sunlight.
- If the damage is not too high and you have noticed the signs early on, then the plant can revert back to its earlier shape after a week or so. However, the best practice will be to take a proper look if there has been any rot in the root or not.
This is important because the effect of root rot, if it starts to spread to the stem and then to the leaves, it will get harder to save the plant even by repotting it. So better be sure than be sorry.
Monitor the damage and act accordingly
- You can wait and see what happens after stopping to water the plant and leaving it on its own for a week.
Keep a sharp eye and see if matters are worsening or not. If it’s getting worse then repot the plant and check for damaged parts while doing so. If it’s looking better than before then wait for another few days and water the succulent with half the amount of water you normally do.
Stick to this routine for a few weeks. Only water the succulent when the potting soil is dry and make sure to drench it in water.
If you are repotting the plant, assess the condition of the root, and remove the wet soil from its body carefully. Then see if any portion of the root seems to look black, brown, and worn out, in short rotten. If that’s the case then take a sterilized scissor and cut those regions out.
Also, remove the affected leaves and branches. After that replant it in a new pot with a drainage friendly soil. Keep it under influence of the indirect sun and Dont water for at least 7 days. Let the plant parts heal.
Repot if Needed
If you see that the soil is in a wet mushy condition and will take quite some time to dry up you should go ahead and repot it in a new pot with new soil mixture.
If you wanna give your plant a last proper chance to recover then go for repotting. Use a proper store-bought soil mixture or make your own soil mixture by maintaining a 30:70 ratio of the organic and inorganic contents.
Get a Moisture Meter
If possible get a moisture meter. Trust me it will make your life a lot easier. Check the moisture of the soil with the help of a moisture meter which will correctly let you know when the soil is dry and needs to be watered.
- As it makes the whole process of keeping your plants totally healthy, this will prevent any such overwatering incident happening with any plant.
- Alternatively, you can also use fingers to penetrate deep in the soil and assess the dampness of the soil. However, this process can be a bit of a drag in the long run especially if you have a lot of greenery in your house.
- I also picked up this useful trick from Cassidy Tuttle that you can also put your fingers on the drainage holes to check if its damp or dry.
- However, using a moisture meter is a much surefire approach and the best thing is you can use it to determine the watering need of all of your plants.
Saving overwatered succulents is never easy. If the plant has sustained less damage and you are acting promptly, you can expect the plant to revert back to being healthy. However, if the damage is too severe, it is sad but there is a possibility that it can die. So in order to be just safe, propagate the succulent using the leaves and stem cuttings which are still in healthy condition.
- Make sure you pluck the leaves with the base intact. Use a sterilized knife or scissor for stem cuttings. Let them callus for a few days under a shade.
- Then go on and plant them in a cactus mix soil. Mist them from time to time and keep it under the indirect sun.
- If things go well you can expect to see roots developing within a few weeks and then switch onto normal watering.
How long does it take for a plant to recover from overwatering?
This depends on many factors involving the condition it is in, the environment, and the care you are providing it.
If it’s already in a bad shape from overwatering then it will be hard for the plant to recover. In those cases, it will be best to propagate the healthy-looking portions of the plant. However many plants do recover if the damage is not extreme.
- Assuming you have repotted it with care and not overwatering it any longer, how long it will take to recover will depend on the various conditions including:
Plants in their growing season will find it relatively easier to recover than in the seasons they prefer to remain dormant. Most plants undergo their growth full-on during the period of spring to summer.
- The majority of the plant species normally grown in households are not that much resistant to cold temperatures and make sure they are not exposed to the cold climate outside as damaged acquired owing to overwatering coupled with cold temperatures is a lethal combination.
Ensure that your plant is not receiving full-fledged sunlight especially during this recovery phase as it can hurt the recovery process. Why?
Cause sunlight helps in tremendous growth and it is troublesome for the plant to adjust the growth and recovery process at the same time. So make sure your plant is receiving just enough of indirect sunlight throughout the day. Keep it on the balcony or preferably in the south or east-facing windows.
Condition of the roots
The roots are the vital most organs of any plant. If the roots are not in the right health it’s going to show in the upper part of the body.
So if your roots were mostly rotten due to overwatering and had to be cut before repotting, it will take some time for the plant to bounce back in better shape. In most instances, they revert back to their earlier shape with time.
The Soil mixture of the new pot
Make sure you are growing your plant in a soil that is ideally suited for their growth and resembles its natural habitat to some degree.
Succulents love to grow on cactus mix soil. Alternatively, you can make your own soil mixture at home as it’s no rocket science and is quite easier than you think. Just make sure the soil that you have repotted the plant or attempting to repot, is a well-draining soil.
The root rot was caused in the first place due to overwatering and also due to the fact that the soil drainage was not strong enough. Most plants that are prone to overwatering prefer soil which does not remain wet for a long time.
You can mix perlite or pumice along with coarse sand to the potting soil in order to make it drainage friendly.
How often should indoor plants be watered?
Indoor plants need less frequent watering than outdoor pants. This is because they have limited resources available indoors.
- These plants have to grow on pot soil in a limited surface area.
- They dont receive full exposure to the sun which in the case of succulents, is something that they prefer.
- The air circulation scope is also limited indoors.
Because of all this, you should be very careful about your watering. Only water the succulents when the soil is dry. This can vary as per the succulent type, age, and size. Roughly succulents need to be watered once in 5-9 days in summer and once in 9-16 days after the fall.
How to dry plant pot soil after overwatering?
- Change its position and keep the plant in a place that gets better sunlight throughout the day. Make sure to not place it directly under the full sun as most plants prefer indirect sunlight throughout the day.
- You could try tilting the pot and letting the excess water flow out.
Having a pot with drainage holes in place helps in saving you from many hassles down the line. Drainage holes play a key role in the drainage of the soil.
- If it’s an indoor plant then you can either place a tray and then keep the pot over it so every time you water you can just put away the excess water from the tray. You can alternatively keep the plant pot in a larger pot so the excess water will get drained out into the bigger pot.
In case your soil is staying waterlogged for way longer than it normally should you need to change the soil mixture and place your plant in the new soil. Add some additional drainage friendly materials like perlite, coarse sand, pebbles, gravels in it which will help in creating air pockets in the soil and ensure a better supply of oxygen to the roots along with improving the drainage.
Overwatered succulents can indeed be saved and revived back to their earlier health. However, you need to take quick action for that.
- Once the root rot occurs it can get tough to save the plant. Succulents can put up with a variety of adverse conditions but not with damp soil.
So always be cautious while watering succulents. When in doubt do not water. They can tackle underwatering but not overwatering.
Follow the soak and dry watering method always for best practices. Also, keep in mind the time of the year. Succulents have more watering needs in spring and summer than after the fall.
Did you like these tips? Which one out of all these tips helped you out the most? let me know in the comments.